Veteran care gets a boost from expanded health data sharing


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Aimed at increasing access to patient information and enhancing care for Veterans, the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) program office added the CommonWell Health Alliance on October 9 to a growing network of hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

CommonWell brings a nationwide network of more than 15,000 hospitals and clinics to the 46,000 community partners already part of the FEHRM’s joint health information exchange (HIE). The HIE is a data sharing capability among the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and community partners.

With the addition of CommonWell, Veterans benefit from providers having a more complete picture of their health. The health information being exchanged enables conversations between Veterans and their providers to start more productively, resulting in an enhanced care experience. It also reduces the times Veterans need to manage and share their printed health records, endure duplicative tests or repeatedly relay basic health information to different health care providers.

“The CommonWell connection means DOD, VA and USCG providers can access even more information about their patients to make the best care decisions,” said William Tinston, director of the FEHRM. “The FEHRM remains committed to driving federal capabilities such as the expanded joint HIE to improve health care delivery regardless of where patients get care.”

Through the joint HIE, providers may access information on their patients’ prescriptions, allergies, illnesses, lab and radiology results, immunizations, past medical procedures and medical notes.

“As a clinician who is using the joint HIE, the more patient information I have access to, the more I can understand the full picture of my patient’s care and better meet their needs,” said Dr. Neil Evans, a VA primary care physician and clinical leader with the FEHRM. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, efficient electronic health information sharing is more important than ever.”

About the system

Launched in April 2020, the joint HIE connects DOD, VA and USCG together with more than 2,000 hospitals, 8,800 pharmacies, 33,000 clinics, 1,100 labs, 800 federally qualified health centers and 300 nursing homes. It enhances the ability of DOD, VA and USCG providers to quickly and securely share EHR data with participating community partners, resulting in more informed care for patients who are navigating between different health care providers.

The joint HIE and CommonWell connection is part of the FEHRM’s overarching effort to deliver capabilities that enable DOD, VA and USCG to deploy a single, common federal electronic health record (EHR). By implementing the same EHR, DOD, VA and USCG can document care from the time a patient enters the military through Veteran care in one single, common health record.

The joint HIE is part of VA health care benefits. Veterans are automatically enrolled. So, if they wish to participate, no other action is necessary. The joint HIE honors patient consent. Health records of Veterans who opt out of sharing will not be exchanged through the joint HIE. Veterans who want to opt out can do so through MyHealtheVet or by visiting www.va.gov/VHIE/VHIE_Sharing_Options.asp.

Learn more about the FEHRM.


Cori Hughes is a program integration lead for the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization Program Office. 

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